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“Virtual commuting and conferencing – New Ways to Work and Communicate Smarter” By: Bruce R Gran CMCA, AMS, PCAM

Having issues with getting a quorum for board and committee meetings, especially associations with site board members? Do you have a large geographical management area and would like to maintain or decrease costs? Would you like to leave a smaller carbon footprint? All of these areas can be effectively managed and delivered with use of current technologies referred to as virtual (or video) commuting and conferencing. The use of technology does not replace direct person to person contact but can be utilized as a management and communication tool to deliver better, smarter, greener services to your associations at less cost. The Wikipedia definition of virtual (web) conferencing: “Web conferencing refers to a service that allows conferencing events to be shared with remote locations. Most vendors also provide either a recorded copy of an event, or a means for a subscriber to record an event. The service allows information to be shared simultaneously, across geographically dispersed locations in nearly real-time. This method can be used for meetings or calls with board of directors, business partners, and employees working in the organization. Today, online conference software or virtual meetings can replace traditional face to face meetings. Meetings take place through electronic channels. Only a couple of years ago, online meeting and collaboration tools for the industry were very complicated, expensive and with low bandwidth - very frustrating. All this has changed with more bandwidth being offered at lower cost and competition decreasing overall prices. Further, online web conferencing technologies are powerful tools that enhance online meetings between participants. Online software can be stored within the meeting invitation to occur on specific day and time, reproduction and transmission of such meetings is much easier and user friendly. These events can successfully eliminate expenses associated with renting the venue or transportation while fulfilling the requirements of conventional meetings. Moreover, these save considerable travelling time, which can be used by employees in other important operations, thereby increasing overall productivity of the business. Another benefit of holding a virtual conference is that companies can lessen their carbon footprint by lowering its car emission rate, since online meetings eliminate the need of travelling. A broadband Internet connection and relevant software enable organizations to host a reliable virtual conference. Since the Internet can be easily accessed anytime and anywhere, comfort level of participants is enhanced. Most online providers utilize live chat applications, high speed internet connectivity and web cams. All individuals participating in the virtual meeting need to be online at the same time. They can ask questions, listen, watch, make presentations and talk with participants in realtime. Such conferencing sessions can be recorded and reviewed whenever required or as approved by the Board of Directors or company management. Some examples but not limited to are Skype, Google, GoToMeeting, WEBEX, and Microsoft Office 365 which is their new “cloud based “office environment, there are many others. Some of these service

offerings are no charge but one may sacrifice functionalities as you get with you pay for. Some require an account while others do not. They offer various access points from browser based (Internet), to applications which are installed software or by devices such as PC’s, tablets and Smartphone’s. Things to consider in using this technology are applicable federal and state statutes, governing documents, policy resolutions and corporate mandates. Understanding the demographic of your associations, boards, business partners and internal organization is instrumental to adoption as this technology is not for everyone. An example of use, I am one of national faculty that teaches the M 202 Association Communications class. In a recent class, I demonstrated SKYPE with another industry professional on the other end. At the conclusion of class I had several attendees come to ask various questions and a few gave examples of how they use this particular technology. One asked if you could have multiple meeting attendees on from different locations on simultaneously, the answer is yes! But the real striking example was a person that is a portfolio manager that lives a good distance from the corporate office. Recently, she had her mother move in that has health issues and needs around the clock care, she wanted her at home instead of a health care facility. She was allowed to use SKYPE by her employer and associations thus being able to care for her mother and still do her job. Results is that her boards and association committees can meet at will at any desired time, she meets with vendors online where possible, other than in person attendance at mandated corporate meetings held quarterly, she can work from home while caring for her mother. A win-win for all involved parties!

Writer biography – Bruce R Gran, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, is National Sales Director with HomewiseDocs, an Internet based data and document provider with 22 years experience as a professional community manager. Bruce is a member of CAI’s National Faculty, Business Partner Council, Technology Group and Co-chair CAI – Central Arizona Education Committee. Additionally he co-founded a management company in Florida, speaks and writes from local to national levels on a variety of industry specific subjects. Bruce holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin and has been a licensed community association manager in Florida since 1989.